Signs your staff might be about to quit

Is your star worker taking more time off and failing to commit to long-term projects? It could be a sign they are looking to quit, a leading management professor says.

A drop in productivity is only one of the signs a staff member might have one foot out the door, San Francisco State University management professor John Sullivan says.

“There are 10 productivity factors that accurately predict coming turnover,” Sullivan said in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial.

“Look for a reduction in their productivity, no longer working beyond expectations, reduced new ideas/innovations, and fewer contributions during meetings.

“Also, look for changes in behavior including no longer committing to long-term projects, being more reserved and having less interest in career advancement and development.”

Employees on the way may also avoid social interactions with management, they may be less interested in pleasing their boss and may do less volunteering, while making more complaints and errors, and take more time off, he said.

This is where the HR department needs to step in.

“Because it is difficult to find talented replacements, managers should instead focus on preventative retention actions,” Sullivan said.

“Fortunately, because managers usually know what motivates their employees, the key success factor is simply having sufficient time to work with an employee who has just started thinking about leaving.”

You can get extra time to work with them by looking out for indicators that let you know who is likely to leave, many of which appear two months before an employee quits, Sullivan said.

“Managers should start out with a list of turnover indicators that have been accurate indicators at other firms and then they should use only the indicators that best predict for them.”

Apart from blatant changes such as increased job seeking activity or increased interest visibility on sites such as LinkedIn, Sullivan listed additional factors to keep an eye out for.

Time-related factors
“The top indicator is an employee’s work anniversary date because it is a time of reflection - along with their birthday and New Year’s Day,” Sullivan said.

“The average number of years between new jobs can also be an indicator.”

Disengagement behaviors
Further to productivity factors are disengagement behaviours and events.

Events that cause employees to reflect include dissatisfaction with their manager, a troubling performance appraisal, being turned down for a promotion/project, completing a degree/certification, and a key colleague or manager leaving.

“Troubling developments that may cause reflection include disasters within the organization, family/life instability, health issues and reaching critical life/career phases.”

So what’s the best approach in discerning a staff member’s plans?

“Often the best identification approach is to periodically meet one-on-one with each employee in a ‘stay interview’.

“Ask them about the factors that cause them to stay and any factors that are frustrating them. Talking with their colleagues and the company ‘gossip’ will often also reveal who is frustrated and why.”

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